Practice Areas

Massachusetts Trial Court Fines and Fees Working Group Report

The United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division published a “Dear Colleague” letter on March 14, 2016 outlining seven recommendations concerning court enforcement of fines and fees. The mission of the Working Group is to review the recommendations, and to evaluate 1) whether Massachusetts laws support each recommendation; and 2) whether the Trial Court is in compliance with each recommendation. This report further sets forth the Working Group’s proposals for adoption and implementation of the Department of Justice recommendations.

Defusing Debt: A Survey of Debt-Related Civil Legal Aid Programs in the United States

In order to better understand the work that civil legal aid programs are doing to serve some of the nation’s consumers, the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) developed this survey to gather data about what kind of representation organizations provided to clients who are being contacted or sued by debt collectors, debt buyers, or creditors. Sixty-four civil legal aid organizations completed the comprehensive survey.

Aging, Women and Poverty in California: We Must Do More

In 2016, the CA Commission on Aging joined with the California Women’s Law Center and the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls to host the first statewide convening focused on older women in poverty through the lenses of retirement options, elder justice, food insecurity, and health access. This article provides evidence that the relationship between legal services and Adult Protective Services (APS) and the Long Term Care Ombudsman should be strengthened in order to expand and improve elder justice resources.

Stopped, Fined, Arrested: Racial Bias in Policing & Traffic Courts in California

This report describes the role that racial bias plays in the practices of police and traffic courts in California. Using records collected from the Dept. of Motor Vehicles, U.S. Census, and a host of police departments, the authors offer evidence that a disproportionate number of license suspensions and arrests related to unpaid fines and fees exacerbate poverty among low-income populations. The discussion also includes true accounts of such experiences as well as recommendations for alleviating issues related to the criminal justice system’s handling of traffic infractions.

Partnerships Between Health Care and Legal Providers in the Veterans Health Administration

Medical-Legal Partnerships (MLPs) offer a unique union between legal aid and health care services. Focusing on the operations of Veteran Health Administration (VHA) medical centers in Connecticut and New York, this report describes MLP development and application in the context of veterans’ needs. After discussing the critical needs of the veteran population, the authors conclude with steps regarding how to go about establishing an MLP.

Law as Healer: How Paying for Medical-Legal Partnerships Saves Lives and Money

This report explores a large body of empirical evidence showing that increased access to legal services via medical legal partnerships can substantially improve health outcomes. Built on the merger of legal aid and health care providers, the medical-legal partnership (MLP) approach provides a more holistic model for addressing social and health related issues among low income populations. The author offers several policy recommendations to develop sustainable funding for MLP programs that pursue legal resolutions to health-harming social risks.

Civil Legal Services and Medical Legal Partnerships Needed by the Homeless Population: A National Survey

Surveying a sample of 48 homeless service sites across 26 states, this study seeks to better understand Medical-Legal Partnership on a national scale. Results indicate that a vast majority of patients experience at least one civil legal issue, most often related to housing, employment, health insurance, and disability benefits. In addition, most sites lacked training to screen for civil legal issues and reported an interest in developing partnerships to better serve vulnerable populations.

Rubber Stamp Justice: US Courts, Debt Buying Corporations, and the Poor

Incorporating over 100 interviews as well as relevant literature and empirical data, this Human Rights Watch article develops a comprehensive assessment of practices that fail to serve equal access to justice in debt buying cases. Additionally, it describes potential solutions to alleviate inequality in the courts through reform legislation and increased funding for legal aid programs focused on serving low-income clients.

Legislating Forgiveness: A Study of Post-Conviction Certificates as Policy to Address the Employment Consequences of a Conviction

A criminal record poses a variety of challenges to becoming a productive, law-abiding member of society. Certificates restoring eligibility for employment and certain licenses possess the potential to help individuals with a criminal record overcome such obstacles to achieve successful reentry. This study indicates that while the value of these documents often goes unrecognized by courts and employers, evidence suggests that legal aid providers can act as powerful advocates for expanding access to and successful implementation of certificates, ultimately facilitating stable employment.

Roles Beyond Lawyers: Summary and Recommendations of an Evaluation of the New York City Court Navigators Program

This report found that tenants facing eviction in New York City were able to get significantly better results under an innovative program that uses “court navigators,” who are not lawyers. The New York City Court Navigators Program seeks to address a considerable imbalance in legal representation, since, at the time of the study, approximately 90 percent of tenants did not have a lawyer, while the vast majority of landlords did.